26 — 19
Better Late than Never
The lateness of this match report is deliberate (Art mirroring life and all that). The slow start and not knowing if anything was going to show up, let alone anything of quality is how those watching the Romans on Saturday would have felt.
London Irish came to Woolhams and in the first few moments left a trail of destruction where in previous games the Romans defensive wall would have been. Conceding the softest of tries with barely 2 minutes on the clock, it was safe to say OA’s were stunned. Irish kept on applying the pressure and it looked like only a matter of time before Irish would add to their early score. The dogged defensive that the Romans showed in their last home outing was nowhere to be seen and line speed was a mythical beast only spoken under hushed breath or the loud vocals of a frustrated crowd and coaching staff. Irish wasted numerous chances to build a deserved lead. It would be an over exaggeration to say that this ignited the Romans performance and spurred them in to action but the embers did start to flicker. Against the run of play and with a rare foray into the Irish half, Nick Wooley converted a penalty from outside the 22 to make the score 7-3 after 20 minutes.
OA’s still on the back foot, losing the territory, possession battle and on the scoreboard started capitalise on some of the Irish errors which became more frequent as the defensive line started get in to gear. Great broken field running by Joe Bridger and Matt Dean started to put OA’s in better field position. An error would then proceed but one occasion of real quality, Dean and Bridger linked, Brett Wallis supported on the inside, he looked for all money to be in only to be cut down just inside the 22. A scrappy few phases proceeded but Ross Parsons regained control attempted a little kick which the Irish defence failed to deal with cleanly, with the ball pin balling around, Hadleigh Esmes gathered the ball as if he were taking candy from a baby and skirted under the posts. Wooley converted and from nowhere the Romans were 10-7 up against the run of the play but the home faithful did not care.
Very quickly, Irish regrouped and the pattern of the game returned to the status quo with the greens dominating possession and territory. The OA’s defence was becoming a more formidable beast with Wallis, Bond, and Bailey all putting in huge defensive shifts that served to inspire those around them. Unfortunately, some of this energy manifested in ill-discipline at the breakdown which saw the penalty count growing. One such penalty led to a kick to touch and from the ensuing line-out, Irish muscled over to retake the lead 12-10. It left just enough time for Wooley to snatch the lead with the last action of the first half with a monster strike in to the wind to ensure a 13-12 lead at half time.
A much improved second half performance from the team was to follow with effective carries from White-Martinez, Bailey who was omnipresent with huge carries. Wooley and Parson managed the game and martialled the troop’s very well and with Peachy making his long awaited return ruling the lineout, the Romans were establishing themselves in the game. The oppressive defence stared forcing errors and with the penalty count starting to swing in favour of the Romans, Wooley was metronomic in converting another 2 penalties to stretch the lead to 19-12. With Irish attack blunted by an impressive defence even the sin binning of Gordon did not negatively impact on the play. With the Romans managing territory well and Peachy and co disrupting line-out ball for Irish a mistake was forced. Alex Powdrell with his first involvement flooded through on the loose ball, tackled the player under the shadow of the posts, forced a turnover and then Parsons great snipe led to the game breaking score which was duly converted by Wooley to ensure 100% conversion rate. At 26-12 with only minutes remaining and momentum well and truly with the Romans you would have been forgiven for thinking the game was done. With only 3 minutes remaining, another exit from the 22 looked to be taking place only for the ball to be charged down by the 12 who dived on the ball and with several movements more akin to gymnastics than rugby managed to score to the right of the posts. 26-19.
Thankfully, a nervy few seconds were negotiated andthe Romans triumphed in a very tight encounter 26-19. A result that certainly t did not seem on the cards during the first half. “Great credit must go to Irish for their efforts and on another day, they could have been going home with all the spoils. That said, the character, fight and attitude shown by OA’s to find a way back in to the game and eventually a way to win is great testament to the quality and character this group of players have.”
Romans Head Coach
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